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Friday, August 5, 2011
Five Questions for Red Sox-Yankees

By Gordon Edes and Wallace Matthews
ESPNBoston.com and ESPNNewYork.com

With the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees set to battle at Fenway Park tied atop the AL East, ESPN Boston and ESPN New York tackle five burning questions concerning the two rivals.


QUESTION 1: Which team has more question marks in its rotation?

EDES
The inclination all season has been to say the Yankees do, because of their reliance on the heavily recycled Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. But who would have expected the two warhorses to combine for 24 quality starts at this stage of the season, with neither showing signs of breaking down? A.J. Burnett remains an erratic enigma, but CC Sabathia has been immense, Phil Hughes was hitting 95 on the gun Tuesday, and prized prospect Manny Banuelos was just promoted to Triple-A. With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season, the Sox have nothing but question marks after Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. John Lackey's start Saturday will qualify as a measuring stick of his suitability as a No. 3 starter in October.

MATTHEWS
Amazingly, right now it looks like the Red Sox, with Daisuke Matsuzaka and Buchholz out and Lackey pitching even worse than A.J. Burnett. CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and, yes, even Burnett match up pretty well with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Lackey, Tim Wakefield and Eric Bedard.

QUESTION 2: Who would you rather have at second base: Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia?

EDES
It's hard to imagine the Red Sox clubhouse without Pedroia, whose presence energizes everyone, from David Ortiz to clubhouse man Joe Cochran. Terry Francona would mope without his card-playing partner and surrogate son, and there would be a noticeable loss of sweat and swagger that would alter the entire team's personality. Both Cano and Pedroia are superbly skilled, of course, but Pedroia is on his way to becoming Boston's version of Derek Jeter, except with uniform pants ripped at the knees.

MATTHEWS
Tough question. A month ago, I would have said Pedroia, no question. But Cano is hitting again and their numbers are nearly identical in every category except that Cano has more home runs. They're even virtually the same age. I would be perfectly happy with either one but I'll give a razor-thin edge to Pedroia.

QUESTION 3: Grade the OTHER team's deadline moves/lack thereof.

EDES
All we heard, after Cliff Lee snubbed the Yankees to sign with the Phillies, is that Yankees GM Brian Cashman would find an alternative by the trading deadline. Well, Cashman found all of the available options wanting, including Ubaldo Jimenez, and is deciding to place his faith in the team's organizational depth, believing that a healthy Phil Hughes, a promising Ivan Nova and an onrushing Manny Banuelos will be better than what was out there. Not sure the Boss would have bought it. I'll give him a C.

MATTHEWS
Well, since the Red Sox only made one, Erik Bedard, and he's only made one start (5 innings, 3 runs, 5 strikeouts), it's tough to apply a real grade. But considering all the injuries to their starting staff, the Red Sox did address a need, which is more than the Yankees can say. I'll give Boston a lukewarm B.

QUESTION 4: Who do the Red Sox fear on the Yanks? Who do the Yanks fear on the Red Sox?

EDES
The Sox still have a tremendous amount of respect for Mariano Rivera, even though they have had more success against him than most teams. And perhaps they should be worried about Mark Teixeira; he can't be any worse than he was in the first eight games of their series, batting just .121 with 11 K's in 33 at-bats. And if the Yankees don't worry about Kevin Youkilis, they should: His .447 on-base average against the Yankees is topped only by Ted Williams since 1957 (minimum 100 plate appearances). Maybe that's why they have hit him so much (12 times).

MATTHEWS
The Red Sox should fear, in this order, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Robinson Cano. The Yankees DO fear David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez -- because their only lefty in the pen, Boone Logan, can't really get lefties out -- and Beckett who, in addition to pitching extremely well this year, seems to have a penchant for, let's say, losing control of his pitches when the Yankees are hitting.

QUESTION 5: Which team is your pick to win the AL East and why?

EDES
I'll stick with the Sox. Their prolific offense and deep bullpen will make the difference.

MATTHEWS
Slight edge to the Red Sox based on head-to-head competition so far this season, but I'm sure these two will meet again in October.